What To Wear Swimming Without A Swimsuit

You may find yourself in a less than desirable situation where you need or want to indulge in some water-based activities, but, to your dismay, you are without your trusty swimsuit. Swimming is not entirely off the cards; you need to consider the best and safest options from what is at your disposal.

Instead of a swimsuit, wearing tight-fitting, lightweight items made from polyester, nylon, or spandex material is your safest option. Underwear (within reason), gym clothes, shorts, and T-shirts serve as alternatives, and swimming in the nude is another option (within reason).

You may not think it matters what you choose to swim in so long as you’re comfortable. But being submerged in water can have a considerable impact on certain fabrics and designs. You must carefully select your last-minute swimming outfit so that you do not risk yourself.

The Functionality Of A Swimsuit

Swimwear has evolved dramatically over the years. A lot of the attire that exists today is made to be fashionable, flattering, eye-catching, and even in some cases, culturally conscious. The primary purpose of any good swimsuit, however, is its functionality.

Swimming in any body of water is a risk for even the most experienced swimmers. That is why it is so vital every precaution is taken to ensure your safety. One such precaution is your swimming attire.

Importance Of Fabrics Used For Swimming Garments

Swimwear is required to be functional above all else. The fabric that is used plays a huge part in this. The material must be flexible yet durable, comfortable to allow for ease of movement, quick-drying, not prone to holding water, and breathable.

Materials with these qualities are polyester, nylon, and spandex or Lycra®. Some bathing suits are comprised of a blend of these and other materials. Some combinations include natural and synthetic fibers; for example, cotton and nylon are often blended.

 Clothing labels should indicate each material’s percentage, which will give you insight into the durability and functionality of your swimsuit. A higher percentage of polyester or nylon is usually preferable.

When considering the material mentioned above, you will probably envision classic swimwear. The kind professional swimmers, wear. It has become less common for people to adhere to form-fitting designs over the years.

 This is even more accurate regarding the lower half of the body. It’s more common to see people wearing looser swimshorts than the brief style speedos that were popular in the past.

These shorts, although looser, still serve proper functionality as swimming trunks. These are made from the same fabric as traditional swimsuits and are secure enough not to slip off.

The Shape And Fit Of Swimming Attire

There is a reason that swimwear is designed to be figure-hugging. And it has nothing to do with showing off your body. When engaging in water activities, the last thing you want is for your swimsuit to betray you by detaching itself or coming loose.

More importantly, there is less chance of your suit causing difficulty in movent or posing a safety risk.

Best Alternatives For When You Do Not Have A Swimsuit

Now that you are more clued up on the importance of swimwear, you can make a safer and more educated decision regarding finding an alternative.

Generally speaking, when in the water, your best alternatives would be something that will not become transparent when wet, made out of a lightweight synthetic fabric, secure and tight-fitting without being uncomfortable or restrictive.

Swimming In Your Underwear Instead Of A Swimsuit

Underwear is not too far off in terms of design when compared to a bikini, swim shorts, or speedo. If you’re lucky, people may not even notice the difference. If your underwear comprises primarily synthetic fibers, isn’t too revealing (if that is a concern), and is well secured, this is a great option.

Gym And Athletic Wear As A Swimsuit Alternative

Modern and dedicated gym clothing is lightweight and designed to absorb sweat and dry quickly. These garments have to allow for movement while also not creating any hindrance. Fitted leggings or cycling shorts paired with a tank top of similar material will provide ample coverage and allow for a safe and pleasant swimming experience.

Swimming In A T-shirts And Shorts Instead Of A Swimsuit

Donning shorts and a T-shirt may have seemed like the most obvious choice as a last-minute swimming costume. But given that most shirts are loose-fitting and have a higher percentage of non-synthetic material and a looser knit, it is not the ideal option.

The same can be said about shorts. However, should this be your only option, wear a shirt that is not too baggy and preferably made of polyester or nylon. You would also need to ensure that the waistband of the shorts can hold its own against any weight the material may retain from water absorption.

Swimming In The Nude

This option is probably the safest in not being restrained or weighed down by wet clothing but also the riskiest. The risk will depend on the situation at hand entirely. But if you are in a safe and private area and have no reservations, then have at it!

The options above are interchangeable. You can mix and match any suitable items at your disposal to ensure a safe and enjoyable swimming experience.

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Key Things To Consider When Swimming In Clothing

Besides the shape and material, other external factors must be considered when opting to swim in something other than a bathing suit.

The factors listed below may make you reconsider certain items as they could impact your safety.

  • The type of water you’re swimming in – Will you be in a pool? A lake? The ocean? A river? Natural bodies of water may have strong currents or tides, which might be hazardous if you are improperly dressed. Rivers and lakes may also have underbrush or reeds that could pose a risk to any loose pieces of clothing. Depth should also be an essential consideration here.
  • Time of day/ temperature – It may not be ideal to be swimming in a fabric that’s too restricting when the temperature is too high. Likewise, if it’s much colder, being ladened in cold, wet clothing even for a short amount of time could be a health risk.
  • Activity – Do you plan on swimming, or are you just going to be sitting idly in the shallow end? If you plan on engaging in more arduous physical activity, your attire should ideally be as close to a conventional swimsuit as possible.
  • Accessibility into/ out of the water – When drenched in wet clothing, getting in and out of the water could prove to require a bit more effort. Sometimes you need to be able to exit the water quickly for any number of reasons. If the accessibility into the water isn’t as straightforward as walking down steps, you need to wear something that won’t weigh you down or cause you to struggle if you need to climb out in a hurry.
  • Company and surroundings – If you are considering swimming in your underwear or the nude, this is critical. Public swimming areas usually have strict laws, so be wary but also considerate.
  • Personal limitations – swimming in a T-shirt may seem a great choice, especially if you are more reserved about showing off too much. But remember that even the most oversized shirt will cling to your every inch once it’s wet. This may leave with the opposite of your desired effect.
  • The aftermath of your garment – Water will undoubtedly impact the integrity of the items you swim in, even more so if you’re swimming in water that contains chemicals or chlorine. Be prepared for some misshaping, discoloration, and fading.

Clothing Items That Should Never Be Worn When Swimming

The items listed below are considered extreme safety risks if worn in water (for swimming purposes) and should be avoided.

  • Jeans
  • Baggy clothing
  • Sweatshirts or hodded tops
  • Tracksuits
  • Items with rips, cords, and longer extensions for decorative purposes that could get hooked or tangled
  • Fleece
  • Wool
  • Flannel


Your safety should always be the deciding factor when considering your options, as well as your comfort. It’s also good to know that many fabrics that are regarded as quick-drying are also ones that have a higher absorption rate (cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp, rayon). When swimming, polyester and nylon are the most credible choices.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to discern which option will best suit your activities and surroundings. But remember, safety first!